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The Future: Cars become Social Objects

*en: Japanese road sign Image via WikipediaIn my work on the future of media, technology and content I often run across related areas such as tourism, banking, energy and transportation; and I have recently ventured into some of those sectors, as well (in particular, tourism – more on that, soon).

So here is a short burst I want to share from the world of transportation:  I think the Cars of the Future will become more like Social Objects. Of course, this will vary drastically from country to country (and cultures) but I think that an increasingly large percentage of cars will cease to be owned, maintained, paid and used by one party only. Instead, groups of people will have fractional ownership (as the brilliant Kevin Kelly calls it), i.e. use, share or access the car when and where they need it, and thereby using motor vehicles much more efficiently.

This will be true for plain-old functional cars ('just get me from A to B') as well as for fun, sports and other special-purpose cars. The obvious advantage of enormous cost and energy savings will make this concept pretty much irresistible – the only thing that keeps most of us from doing this now, already, is our reliance on the car as a status symbol and (indeed) as some weird guarantor of 'personal freedom' (yes…I am guilty, too). I believe that this will turn around within the next 3-5 years: if you DO own a car, just for yourself and your own enjoyment, people may well consider you hopelessly old-fashioned; and not much admiration will come your way any longer.

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I also reckon that within the next 2-3 years many Europeans will not really enjoy individual driving that much any more, with lower and lower speed limits becoming a constant headache, mega-traffic jams and congestion charges and significantly increased chances of delays. This will lead to a much increased demand for high-quality public and semi-public (i.e. first and luxury class) transportation, which will be even further boosted by the fact that people will of course be fully connected anywhere and anytime they travel  – and since they won't be busy driving they can take full advantage of this.

We will see steep increases in car-sharing services of all kinds (e.g. Zipcar in the U.S.), and the concept of self-driving electric cars will probably become a reality much sooner than we think – just click the icon on your mobile and the next available car will show up on your doorstep; hop-in and be driven to your destination without lifting a finger.

Driving yourself will increasingly become an exception rather than the default. Talk about change: 100s of Billions of $$, and Trillions of brain-cycles freed up. Think about what we can do with all that time we used to spend on driving. Tele-learning, networking, co-creation, crowdsourcing…  here we come!

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